“I am not a great decision-maker,” admits Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96). “My approach to big life decisions is to pray a lot, to get as much information as I can, to wait until the last minute — and then to make a decision and go with it.”
It was during his Senior Year at the College that Sam first began to think seriously about what to do after graduation, and that decision did not come easily. He initially considered entering the seminary but, after much prayer, discerned that his vocation lay elsewhere. He then contemplated becoming an educator, but realized he did not have a teacher’s temperament. Finally he found himself torn between two competing desires — to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician, or to tap into his entrepreneurial talents and enter the world of business. (While a student at the College, he ran a small software company.)
Ultimately he opted for both. As the president and managing partner of the MAWD Pathology Group in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Caughron is now a physician and a businessman, treating patients, managing the company’s operations, administering its medical laboratory, and overseeing a staff of over 50 employees.
The Path to Pathology
After graduating from the College in 1996, Sam completed prerequisite courses at Creighton University before entering the university’s medical school in 1998. At first he expected that he would choose primary care for his area of specialization, but this decision, too, took time and consideration.
“I liked the idea of helping people on the front lines, but as I went through medical school, I realized that my interests and skills were a better fit for pathology,” he says. “It’s more analytical. Pathologists are sometimes called the ‘doctor’s doctor.’ Our role is to be more understanding of the science of medicine. We tend to deal with the rarer diseases, and we are the ones who diagnose cancer.”
There was also another advantage to pathology, one that became more evident during his first year of medical school, when Sam married his Thomas Aquinas College classmate Erin (Mackey ’96). A pathologist’s hours are more predictable than those of most other physicians, thereby lending themselves more readily to the demands of family life. Being a pathologist, Dr. Caughron finds, makes it easier for this physician-businessman to tend to his duties as husband-father. And with 12 children, he still has plenty of opportunities to care for patients on the “front lines” of his own home.
Upon graduating from medical school, Dr. Caughron stayed at Creighton University to undertake a residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, and then traveled to Nashville to Vanderbilt University, where he completed an advanced Fellowship in Molecular Genetic Pathology, focusing on new methods of DNA-based medical testing and their application to patient care. He then worked for two years at a private pathology practice in Billings, Montana, before returning to his native Kansas City in 2009 as a pathologist at MAWD. Five years later, he became the group’s president and managing partner.
In this latter capacity, he is primarily still a physician, maintaining an office at Kansas City’s Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and he directs the company’s molecular laboratory, ensuring the accuracy and quality of all medical testing. “I am also involved with running the business of our practice fairly extensively,” he says. “Medicine today increasingly requires the physician to be aware of the business side of things.”
Among his 10 fellow pathologists at MAWD is none other than his father, Dr. Michael R. Caughron, whose seven children are, like Sam, all graduates of Thomas Aquinas College. “We have been working together more and more,” the younger Dr. Caughron observes. “It’s a real privilege that I get to practice side by side with him.”
Hippocrates & Socrates
Dr. Caughron has additionally served as a member of the board of the College of American Pathologists and is the current president of the region’s guild of the Catholic Medical Association. Often, he says, when he is participating in the meetings of these professional organizations, he thinks back to the Socratic discussions at Thomas Aquinas College.
“Sitting in a classroom at the College and sitting in a board discussion with leaders of a specialty of medicine from across the country are actually remarkably similar,” he reflects. “You have a bright group of people. You are approaching a question, you have to break it down, analyze it, and figure out where you need to go with it. The College’s educational approach teaches one to think critically, and that is a skill that is, especially in higher-level fields or functioning, very useful.”
Yet even more important, Dr. Caughron adds, was the spiritual formation he received at the College. “The intellectual life of the College is its gem, but its heart is obviously the Faith. For me, there was growth in both areas during the four years there.” It was the intellectual growth that prepared him to be a doctor and businessman, and the spiritual growth that prepared him to be a caregiver and servant.
“I consider being a physician an incredible privilege and an honor,” he says. “People come to you at their weakest, at least bodily, and they seek your help. It is an incredible blessing to be in that role and to be able to help them.”